With only three simple pantry ingredients, you and your family can create salt dough ornaments for any season or special occasion. Measuring out ingredients, forming the dough, and incorporating tactile elements is fun for any age, but especially for younger ones. This soothing activity brings together science, cooking, and artful creativity––what could be better?
When the holidays roll around, the first thing that comes to mind is decorating…or maybe food. Either way, both food and decorations can transform a festive event into something even more magical and memorable. (Although this DIY clay recipe is technically edible, we don’t recommend giving it a try. The amount of salt would be overwhelming!)
If you have kiddies at home who become bored easily (or if the weather is wonky), use this opportunity to create an at-home Art Camp for Kids! This is the perfect time for children (or adults!) to allow their creativity to flow freely. Spend the day mixing up the salt dough (a super sensory activity opportunity) and decorating with delight after the ornaments are done.
Let’s get started!
Creating your own homemade clay is easier than you think! Although this project may get a little messy, it’s totally worth it. These salt dough ornaments can be exquisite and elegant or super chill and cheezy. They can be cute and cuddly, classic or contemporary, and even silly or scary. There are no rules once the dough is ready.
Before you get started, here are few suggestions to keep the clutter in check:
This homemade clay recipe isn’t only for the winter holidays. There are endless ways in which you can personalize this dough to make ornaments of any shape, size, or color. Here is a small list of shape suggestions for every season or celebration. We’d love to hear your ideas, too! Make sure to add them to the comments below.
This is the most thrilling part! Use your brain power to come up with your best and most brilliant ideas. You can do it! These are only some suggestions for decorating. The ideas are infinite!
To double check whether the art supplies you’re using are vegan-friendly, make sure to consult our Vegan Art Supply Guide!
Helpful Hint: If you wish for your salt dough ornaments to last more than a year, consider spraying them with a clear acrylic sealer or painting on a layer or two of Mod Podge. Remember to let dry thoroughly before storing.
Why not add a little something special to your ornament before baking? Include several drops (or sprinkles) of a natural scent to the unbaked dough to boost these salt dough decorations up a notch. Here a few scent recipes to get you started:
Note: Make sure to mix in the scented oils, extracts, or spices well into the dough before cutting and baking. If the scent is not strong enough when done, you can always use a paintbrush to brush more onto the back of the salt dough ornament (in case of staining) and let dry.
Hanging an ornament (for any occasion) should be fun, not frustrating and fiddly. If you follow these tips, you’ll find yourself looking forward to this step every year. No need to worry!
Skimping on the string or using ratty, old ribbon won’t do, friends! If it looks worn out or is breaking apart, put it in the compost or leave out for the birds. Go for good stuff such as: kitchen cotton string, hemp twine, linen cord, satin ribbon, metal ornament hooks (not the flimsy kind), or even rubber bands.
When adding the hole to the unbaked ornament, make sure that the hole is not too close to the top. If it is, chances are that the hole may either close up or not be sturdy enough to hold the ornament’s weight once out of the oven. Place the hole at least ¼-½ inch down from the tippy top.
Choose between a tree (either natural, artificial or even a small, metal tabletop tree just for ornaments), a wooden, expandable hat rack, or simply anywhere in your home that can hold a little bit of weight. Other unique ideas include door knobs, chair arms, banana trees, chandeliers, mug rack, or even your rear view car mirror! Find that special place and make it a tradition to add it there every year.
Instead of arranging the ornaments individually on a tree, hook, or stand, you can tie or sew them onto a sturdy cord (like a cotton clothesline) or to a long length of seam binding (you can find it at any fabric store). Then, simply attach each end securely to the edges of a doorway, across a fireplace mantle or over a window curtain rod. Bunting makes everything more exciting!
Make your own homemade clay handprint at home! Swap out cookie cutters for fingers, hands, or paws! These can be such wonderful and thoughtful gifts for family members and friends, as well as to commemorate significant life events and occasions.
To create these lovely, personalized clay pieces, make the salt dough as usual. But, instead of cutting out small, individual shapes, roll out the dough into one large shape. Place on a sheet of parchment paper. Try to keep the dough to around ½” thickness. Clean and dry the selected hand, finger, thumb, or paw (or item) well. Press the chosen part into the dough so that there’s a definite depression, but not all the way to the bottom. Remove very gently.
Lift the parchment paper off of the counter and place onto a baking sheet. Bake as for the salt dough ornaments. You may choose not to flip the piece over in the middle of baking. If you feel nervous that your creation might crack or break, simply turn the baking sheet around 180 degrees and continue baking. It’s not completely necessary for it to be flipped onto the other side. When done, let cool as directed and decorate!
To make these easy homemade clay ornaments all you need are three simple ingredients: all-purpose flour, salt, and water! That’s it!
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees F or the lowest temperature your oven will go to.
In a medium to large mixing bowl, add the flour, salt, and water and mix thoroughly using a wooden spoon or your hands. Once a dough forms, keep kneading it for a few minutes, adding a sprinkle of flour as needed if the dough becomes too sticky.
Once the dough has a soft, mostly dry texture, allow it to rest in the bowl for 20-30 minutes.
When ready, sprinkle a little flour on the counter top or cutting board and roll out the dough to ¼-inch thickness.
Press cookie cutters into the dough surface, spacing them in a way that allows you to use up as much space as possible. Carefully peel away excess dough and transfer the cut shapes to a parchment lined baking sheet. Continue cutting out ornaments (occasionally reforming dough and rolling it back out when you only have scraps left) and placing them on the baking sheet until all of the dough has been used up.
Use a straw or large wooden skewer to make a clearly defined hole near the top of the cut shapes.
This is also the time to use any stamps or embossing letters if you have them.
Place on a middle rack of the oven and bake for 30 minutes.
Using a spatula, carefully flip the ornaments over and bake for another 30 minutes or until the shapes feel firm. Depending on your oven, it may take more or less than 30 minutes. Keep checking every 5 minutes or so. Don’t let the ornaments become brown.
Take the baking sheet out of the oven and allow the ornaments to cool completely before removing from the tray.
Decorate any way you like (adding paint, glitter, accessories, etc.) and thread a piece of ribbon or string through the top hole of the ornament. Enjoy!
Good question! At higher temperatures, the dough seems to expand a little more easily. To prevent this from happening, use the lowest setting on your oven when baking your ornaments. Also, place them as far away from the heating element as possible. Usually, this means towards the bottom of the oven.
After baking your cut shapes for 30 minutes (at your oven’s lowest temperature), flip them gently and make sure to check them every 5 minutes or so. Some ovens cook more quickly than others.
As an alternative to baking your salt dough ornaments in the oven (or if you do not have an oven), you can allow your ornaments to air dry on parchment paper or wax paper in a place that has low humidity.
This may take from a few days to a week, but they will eventually dry and harden. Make sure to flip the ornaments once per day. If you have the extra time and space, this is a nice way to save on electricity as well.
Being creative can be hard work, so here is additional inspiration for both vegan art supplies and vegan kids’ snacks. Once you’re done filling their minds with amazing art, fill up their bellies with healthy, delicious vegan snacks. These Peanut Butter & Jelly Thumbprint Cookies are an art project and fun food in one recipe—give them a try!
This salt dough ornament recipe was developed and written by Gina House and edited by Rachel Lessenden. Photos by Amanda McGillicuddy for World of Vegan, all rights reserved.